14 annoying habits that are driving your coworkers crazy

When I worked for Washington Mutual many years ago, there were a few weeks where I was working on several big, deadline-driven projects and I was pretty stressed. The days ticked by while I toiled away on the assignments. One day a coworker who sat next to me asked if I was okay. Turns out I was talking under my breath, sighing and expressing frustration and I had no idea I was doing it. My poor coworkers endured this for too long. I decided that day that I needed to keep my stress to myself or find another way to express it to avoid annoying my cubicle mates.

At another company where I worked, a coworker would clear his throat all the time. It was so annoying! Because we spend so much time with our work mates we need to avoid practicing irritating habits that drive our coworkers crazy. In addition to the grating habits already mentioned, here’s a list of some of the more common or particularly irksome habits. Several of them came from my Facebook friends who had plenty to say about these irritating behaviors.

Whistling or singing. You might think you’re sharing a cheerful little tune but your constant whistling will not make your colleagues happy.

Talking loudly. A lot of people are guilty of this, especially when they are talking on the phone. It’s really hard to concentrate when your cubicle mate is talking at high volume. If you tend to speak loudly you have a few choices. Go to a conference room or a place where you are less likely to bother your coworkers when you do need to talk on the phone or chat with a colleague. If that’s not possible post a note on your computer or somewhere visible that reminds you to keep your volume down. Or, do such a good job in your position you get promoted to an office and then close the door.

Sniffing. Blow your nose already! And please do so in the bathroom. That said, sometimes a constant runny nose or throat clearing is a sign of a medical problem. If so, it would be helpful to let your coworkers know you have a health problem that leads to one or both of those conditions and you’re sorry if it’s bothersome.

Tapping a pen or other object. If you tend to be a fidgety person instead of tapping try doodling on paper or playing with a quiet fidget toy in meetings. If neither works sit on your hands so you’re not tempted to twiddle. And, if you’re a knee/leg bouncer, please stop.

Hovering. If you need to talk to a coworker avoid standing there until she notices you. Instead, say “Knock, knock. Do you have a minute to talk about the XYZ project?” If you’re someone who likes to shoot the breeze, to avoid interrupting your associate when working, set a coffee or lunch date instead. You’ll have this person’s full attention and you’ll avoid bothering your friend’s cubicle mates.

Eating stinky food in your cubicle. That leftover lamb curry may smell like heaven to you, but I’m 99.9% sure no one else is swooning with joy. If it’s smelly (this includes fish of any kind, really garlicky food, hard boiled eggs and Kimchi), leave it at home.

Talking or listening to messages on speaker phone. If you work in an open floor plan do not use the speaker phone option ever. If you’re in an office, close your door before you talk through the speaker.

Vibrating or ringing cell phones. Leaving your phone on your desk when you go the bathroom or attend meetings is good etiquette. But, be sure to turn the ringer or vibrate option off.

Wearing a lot of perfume or cologne. Don’t let people know you’re coming and going just by the scent even if it is Eau de Joie. So many people are sensitive to perfumes it’s really best to not wear any at the office. If your workplace allows fragrances wear them sparingly.

Coming to work when you’re sick. Stay home!! And, when you’re no longer contagious see number three above.

Grooming. Please don’t clip or file your nails, brush your hair, floss your teeth, pick your nose or do other bodily and grooming things in public. Go to the bathroom.

Darth Vader breathing on conference calls. I bet you didn’t know it was you did you? Yep, the person who didn’t put their phone on mute when they weren’t talking. The mute button is your friend. Use it often.

Leaving food in the fridge. Be sure to label and date your food and remove it after a few days. When it’s your turn to clean out the fridge you’ll discover quickly how awful it is to have to go through spoiled, stinky, rotting food.

Chewing loudly. Whether it’s your morning granola, gum, or popcorn those loud chewing noises are driving your coworkers bonkers. In fact, there is a name for the condition that affects many people who are particularly bothered by “chewing, mouthy sounds” – it’s called misophonia. Please chew with your mouth closed. If that’s hard to do, relegate eating to the breakroom only, and chewing gum in the privacy of your home.

I’ll end there. If you are guilty of any of these irritating habits, for the sake of peace and harmony with your coworkers, please stop. What would you add to this list? Please share other annoying things your office mates do at work?




Please note: We have a new method of delivering blog posts to your inbox. If you have previously received these blog posts through Feedburner, please subscribe to receive these blog posts through the form below and unsubscribe to the posts you receive through Feedburner.

Feel free to share:


Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. John on January 10, 2019 at 7:07 am

    Sniffling or constantly clearing throat could be due to medical reasons. Not always something the person can do about it.

  2. Arden on January 10, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    Good point John. I know it’s something I have been suffering from lately. I’ll update the post. Thanks for weighing in.

  3. John on June 15, 2019 at 7:40 am

    Omg .. What petty requirments

Leave a Comment